There was a time that I thought I’d never see this film. After numerous rights issues preventing a new crossover to the multiple delays that came once the film had been completed, the road to seeing the movie felt like a journey in its own right. But we finally got it and despite some issues the film has, I believe it was worth it.
I watched the film on opening day on HBO Max, which is not where I wanted to watch it but where it was convenient for me to watch it. And while it may not have been a full theater experience, I did my best to replicate it. My first viewing experience left me unsure how I felt, mainly because of a bias that I’ve been spouting on here for weeks. After a week had passed, I watched it again with no expectations of anything and found myself coming out the other side more fulfilled.
The plot of this flick is pretty straight-forward and honestly I appreciate that. No need to complicate a movie that explicitly states a fight is going down in the title. Godzilla’s rampaging and we don’t know why, although it’s fairly obvious when you see he’s targeting a specific facility. Even if you don’t know the exact reason why, deducing that Apex is up to no good is not hard.
Conversely, Kong is contained on Skull Island for what I would assume is his protection, although that reason feels muddles considering Godzilla and Kong have existed simultaneously for decades and never once did Godzilla seek him out, so why didn’t he come after him before and why would they need to protect him now? All we’re told is it’s due to an ancient rivalry which sounds cool BUT never explained.
But then Kong is needed to lead a team to the Hollow Earth because it could reveal a new power source for Apex. See? Not hard to deduce. Obviously for reasons previously stated, getting Kong to the entrance will be problematic. But they ultimately succeed and Kong gets to explore the Hollow Earth before his big showdown with Godzilla. See? Simple enough.
Some of my issues with this film stem from there being little to no follow through with the entirety of the Monsterverse franchise. There have been very few characters that have overlapped in these films and, in my opinion, only one felt like they were developed beyond one movie. That character being Dr. Serizawa. However, there was a character in this film named Serizawa who seemingly had an initial interest in Gojira at the beginning but then he was nothing more than a lackey for Apex. Was this supposed to be someone related to Dr. Serizawa? If so, how and why are they working against Gojira? But perhaps he’s not. Just another guy in the world with that surname. Odd choice for a writer to make though. I don’t know. This felt like an undeveloped plot thread.
The return of Madison Russell and her father Mark was nice to see but did not feel necessary. Their presence changed nothing. Madison claiming that she knows Godzilla wouldn’t act this way could fall to anyone in Monarch, even Mark despite his previous feelings towards him. And everything she and her friends do throughout the movie is nothing more than exposition for us as an audience. They do nothing to move the plot in any way. That said, Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison are both entertaining as always.
For me, the biggest misstep here would be the character of Nathan Lind played by Alexander Skarsgård. While I have no issue with him or his character, the character that SHOULD have been here is Houston Brooks from Kong: Skull Island. He was the man behind the Hollow Earth theory AND worked for Monarch AND was last seen in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, so why not have him appear here to finally SEE what he theorized for decades? This was a missed opportunity to tie together these films in a much more cohesive manner.
And while we’re talking about the Hollow Earth, this is something that needs to be fleshed out in a future installment. You can’t introduce a Journey to the Center of the Earth style world with famous kaiju and not explore it fully. Especially when there is a clear history of something going on down there! Hell, this could be a prime opportunity to introduce other unseen kaiju from Toho. Gorosaurus would be a great call back to King Kong Escapes. Maybe some other lesser knowns like Varan or Baragon. Hell why not someone like Gamera. Nab the American film rights to him and finally get him and Godzilla to clash! That’s how they pulled this off!
To digress for a moment, one complaint I’ve heard about the film is its leaps in technology and logic. How we go from the grounded element of the 2014 film to the portal jumping of this film. I want to point out once again that this is not unheard of in Godzilla films. By the 5th film entry of the Showa era, they were dealing with aliens and crossing film franchises. Be like Elsa and let it go.
I guess the human characters I do enjoy would be Dr. Andrews and Jia. Since they are the connection to Kong, they feel necessary and I like that they are protective of him. Plus, having Kong be able to sign was a nice addition that felt like proper growth for the character. And let’s talk about the monsters because that’s why we all came here.
First, we get to see a Skull Crawler again which I was so excited to see. Being used as a tool for an Apex training exercise was a clever way to use them. Then we get some winged vipers (whose name I don’t know) in the Hollow Earth. Seeing that creature reminded me of a design I had for a character years ago where I crossed elements of a snake and a spider. Obviously this leans more towards a cobra with dragon-like wings but still it’s an uncanny resemblance.
Then what should have been the biggest surprise but wasn’t because we all literally knew it was coming: Mechagodzilla. The design is good, although I would say the take in Ready Player One is my preferred conception if we’re comparing Americanized versions. I get the design here though. It works. And they made it a force to be reckoned with, just as it was in the Japanese iterations. My only gripe is that it should have come close to killing Godzilla, like putting him on his last legs like Godzilla did to Kong… yeah I gotta talk about that.
First things first, Both Godzilla and Kong are handled with care. Nothing about either of them feels uncharacteristic. Godzilla is a force of nature reacting to a threat he is sensing. He senses Ghidorah and when you learn that, it makes sense as to why he’s being extremely aggressive in his search. This was a major threat that damn near wiped out the world. I did like the idea that Ghidorah “possessed” Mechagodzilla so, in a way, Godzilla was facing two of his biggest nemeses in one form!
Kong is more relatable because of the emotions you get from him. And when they clash? We get some real fights that don’t feel cheap or rushed. When Godzilla attacked at sea, I knew Kong was in trouble from the start. This is Godzilla’s domain. This wasn’t a fight he could easily come out on top of. Then when they meet in Hong Kong, Kong puts his newly found axe to good use and gives Godzilla an grade-A ass whoopin’! But ultimately, Godzilla gets the upper hand and forces Kong to submit but not willingly.
I will openly admit that when that scene played out, I was upset. Even my wife looked over at me and said, “you are so pissed right now, aren’t you?” Having time to reflect, I agree that it was the right decision to make. Godzilla is more powerful and I’ve never once not believed that. My stance was always standing by the underdog. I despise people who instantly dismiss those they deem to be weaker and then proceed to rag on them while pumping up their big champion. It comes off arrogant and bullyish. And I can’t stand a bully.
Kong gave as good as he got and, in the end, I think Godzilla respected him. They both knew who the alpha was but Godzilla can acknowledge strength all the same. He saw Kong take down Mechagodzilla and game recognizes game. Then the ending gives way to an approach to both franchises continuing without having to worry about crossovers. Godzilla rules the Earth. Kong rules the Hollow Earth. Saying that aloud almost sounds like he got the second place trophy.
There were some nice callbacks to the original film like Kong’s airlift, the tree in the mouth gag, and even Kong being revived with electricity. If there were any more than that, then I must have missed them upon both viewings.
All in all, the film delivered on its promise of a throwdown and none of the monster action was obscured or in the dark. It even ends in a way that leaves the door open to a variety of possibilities for future installments without setting a direct path forward. I hope we get to see Godzilla and Kong again in this universe whether it’s separate adventures or together. I think I will always have more of a fondness for the original Japanese films, but I believe my fondness for these films will also grow over time.